Which of These 3 Solar Firms Is Right for You?

Phillip is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.

A rapidly growing world population coupled with increasing pollution demands something big: a green energy source that spans a hundred Olympic parks.

In the UK, that's exactly what is being proposed through the use of solar panels. According to The Telegraph, the most pressing concern isn't how the government would manage to generate the electricity, but how it would accommodate such a massive supply.

While the project is in its proposal stage -- British Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker presented the idea -- it shows the global effort to produce clean energy, something at which Europe has excelled. 

This shows that solar energy is a very real option for providing energy on a massive scale. The panels in England would produce 20GW and be ready in 2020. That's 10GW more than the current grid can handle, according to energy experts who commented on Barker's proposal.

SunPower has eyes on Europe

SunPower (NASDAQ: SPWR) shows tremendous promise in the field. First-quarter revenues grew by about 28% year-over-year. Furthermore, the firm is improving its overseas prospects with recent power plant contracts in Japan. It needs to make a firmer stake in Europe, however. The firm looks like it is being pushed out of the area, as sales declined in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) by 55% from the previous year and gross margins were at negative 33%. However, SunPower is focusing on efforts in EMEA by working more closely with the company's parent, Total SA. While Japan could bring this stock up, look for progress in Europe before making a purchase. It should be noted that Warren Buffett invested $2.5 billion into a solar plant slated to be constructed by the firm.

Yingli signs major contract in China

Yingli Green Energy (NYSE: YGE) is the largest solar panel manufacturer on the planet. It recently signed the framework of an agreement with a municipality in the Southern China province of Yunnan that would result in about 3GW worth of panels. This could keep profits flowing for this company through 2016, as the firm is contracted to complete projects throughout the region. The company hasn't announced the financial details, but a project of this magnitude will surely bring in a slew of revenue for the company and help stabilize that line item. Beware of instability, however, as the company has posted losses in three of the last four years.

Duties are costing Trina

One of the challenges of being a solar company that is ready to take on contracts throughout the world is the duties and other costs associated with working in new jurisdictions. Trina Solar (NYSE: TSL) is facing some major challenges, and the company is paying billions for importing solar equipment. Furthermore, the firm has $319 worth of inventory, which is incredibly high for a company worth only $440 million. If the demand was there then the inventory would be justified, but the firm has a severe imbalance between its current supply level and the demand for it.

Which firm is right for you?

With governments throughout the world progressively accepting greener forms of energy, the solar industry is set for major profits in the years ahead. Of these three firms, I would invest in Yingli due to the major contract that it recently scored. As a long-term investor, however, I need to be ready for the company's bumps and bruises, and hold tight. I see the regularity of contracts increasing, and with Yingli making major connections in China, expect major growth ahead.

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Phillip Woolgar has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Is this post wrong? Click here. Think you can do better? Join us and write your own!

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